One of the privileges of being a politician in Nigeria is that he or she can say or do anything without being held accountable. That is why so many extraordinary things happen in Nigeria’s political arena, from the significant and sublime to the sensational and spurious. Most of the scenarios do not only help in disorienting the people but they can unsettle even the most philosophical of souls. Take for instance, a statement credited to the Executive Director (projects) at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Cairo Ojougboh who in an interview recently said that the country would break up if the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC should release the list of those involved in looting the commission.
Of course, the statement in all entirety is floundering much as it is dispiriting but not surprising. Hence, the fireworks of counter reactions that greeted the remark from well meaning Nigerians. However, it is sad to note that the ruling government seems to be complacent with corrupt individuals. The rate at which corruption has enveloped the entire system and punitive measures remain a far cry is suspicious. President Muhammadu Buhari on a recent Sallah-day chat with newsmen seems to confirm the above in his lamentation that integrity is sadly becoming a scare virtue in the country as most people in government have abused trust reposed in them. Such an uninspiring statement without any punishment has made most of the ruling government’s indulgent sympathisers to lose faith.
One wonders why government has chosen to design an elaborate set of laws to punish corrupt individuals, without giving it teeth to bite. The Criminal Code operating in the south and the Penal Code operating in the north of the country not only categorically forbid corruption, they prescribe a tough penalty of seven years imprisonment for anyone caught offering or receiving a bribe or in any way abusing his or her forum.
Despite the relevant laws still very active and alive, corruption continues to thrive in the country. More often than not, a commission of inquiry is in session to investigate and probe all manner of wrong-doings.
Yet, political office holders remain neckdeep as the locus of corruption takes over government establishments. There has not been any serious conviction to deter the public particularly politicians and public office holders from get-rich-quick syndrome. A case in point is the former Abia state governor and currently a Senator, Orji Uzor Kalu’s jail term among others that was a mere slap on the wrist. Such a conviction is impotent and meaningless as a deterrent to others. This is because it could encourage weak-minded and valueless individuals to embark on similar escapades knowing, as it were, that the penalty for such abhorrent behavior would be a mere tap on the head. When politicians and public office holders realise that once they violate the laws of the land, they would be confronted with the full force of the laws, then circumspection and discipline will reign.
Despite regarding Ojougboh’s disintegration theory as the most dramatic statement ever made by a politician in recent time, Nigerians are now trapped in a weird impasse as corruption and the demand to expose it confronts the people with a scaring choice. Let’s face it, who would want to release the NDDC looters list and bear the consequences of breaking the country apart? Again, Ojougboh’s unscientific and baseless theory brings to bear the view long expressed by compatriots that Nigeria has to kill corruption before the menace kills the country. The genuine concern about corruption by well meaning Nigerians has shown that it is time to put a human face on not just the NDDC but on every aspect of governance. This would help to save the country from being a boon to speculators and commission agents and a bane to everyone else. Of course, Ojougboh’s disintegration thesis has been punctured by well meaning Nigerians and organisations who dare him to release the list. One of such bodies is the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) through its chairman and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom state, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga who said: “…releasing the list will not break up Nigeria, rather it will make Nigeria stronger…because we will know those who are against the interest of the nation, the real enemies of the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole…”
It is indeed disheartening to note that, corruption has become the love triangle of Nigeria’s politics, irrespective of the acrimonies we see playing out among Nigerians daily through tribe, religion or geo-political zone. Such sentimental issues cannot sway collaborators in corrupt practices. They are less concerned about the direction of petty issues or what tunes and belief the people dwell in the society. Wait a minute, if truly the NDDC looters list could disintegrate the country some persons have argued that should the document land in the hands of the secessionist group referred as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) their age long intension would come to pass without further struggles. No doubt, even a lay man knows that Ojougboh’s contradictory garb was a guise to divert public attention and for the issue to be swept under the carpet in no time. Indeed, it is shameful that Nigerian politicians lack shining example of social and political responsibility. This is because the greater access politicians and public officials have to public funds, the greater their propensity to steal from the nation’s treasury. And to cap it, government will vote a huge amount of money for a forensic investigation that may not see the light at the end of the day.
Therefore, it is not enough for the ruling government to approve N772 million for the forensic audit of the NDDC, rather, it should throw its weight behind releasing the list of the commission’s looters and let the law take its cause. What is the need for a forensic investigation when the IMC already has a list of the supposed corrupt persons? The ruling government should not betray the trust the people repose in it. The government should avoid sending a wrong signal that it enjoys seeing corruption flourish in the country.
Therefore, the government and the good people of this country must strive to bring corrupt people to justice.